Liberty Stadium, Swansea
September 16, 2013; 19:00 GMT
Manager-of-the-Month Brendan Rodgers returns to his past club Swansea City FC, where Michael Laudrup has built upon the foundations he laid and taken the Welsh club to a whole new level .
Brendan Rodgers is bound to be a man experiencing mixed emotions when he heads to the Liberty Stadium, where he built his reputation as an astute manager. He built the attacking philosophy that the team follow till date, and in the process turned a Championship club into one that finished 11th in the Premier League. Once he departed to fill in the managerial role left vacant by the departure of Kenny Dalglish from Liverpool, Michael Laudrup was brought in by Swansea. Many expected the club to falter without Rodgers’ tutelage, but Laudrup has managed to not only maintain the attacking philosophy that Rodgers built, but even improve upon it.
Michael Laudrup has recently aimed verbal swipes in the direction of some members of the opposing squad. He was recently quoted as being “surprised” by the news that Daniel Sturridge might be fit to face his side, since he was unable to feature for England due to a thigh strain:
“Everyone is talking about England needing its young players and the importance of the game. I am sure [Sturridge] would have played the other day in a crucial game but he didn’t as he was injured. But just 48 hours later and he is already fit to play against us. I was a little surprised about that. I thought there were some rules that if you were injured you couldn’t play for your team three or four days later.” – Michael Laudrup
While Rodgers has quickly clarified that the call was taken by “medical experts”, not by the Englishman himself, but Sturridge might still be stinging from the insinuation. It might just add a little bit of motivation for the striker who has struck goals in all three League matches thus far.
Team News, Tactics & Lineups
Swansea City FC
While a mid-week match against Valencia looms on the horizon, Swansea City can be expected to field their best 11 in this League match. Michael Laudrup has added carefully to his squad this transfer window, the most prominent signing of course being Wilfried Bony. Also in attack will be the club’s Player of the Year (2012-13) Michu, who will play just behind Bony, with Wayne Routledge and Pablo Hernández on either wing. Leon Britton will man Central Midfield, as he has since his days under Brendan Rodgers. Only instead of paring up with Joe Allen, who left for Liverpool in 2012, he will pair up with ex-Liverpool player Jonjo Shelvey. Shelvey is expected back after recovering from a knock that forced him to withdraw from the England U-21 squad; in the small chance that he suffers a set-back, Laudrup has other excellent options like Jose Canas and Jonathan de Guzman. The back four of Angel Rangel, Ashley Williams, Chico Flores and Ben Davies will play in front of Goalkeeper Michel Vorm.
Swansea City have shifted their playing still a fraction from last season: earlier they had Michu leading the line in a false-9 role with an attacking midfielder (de Guzman, usually) behind him. Now, Michu is positioned marginally deeper with Wilfried Bony, leading the line as a proper number 9, in front of him. Michu might not get as many goals as he did last season, but Swansea will benefit both from his scoring and passing game now, and will have an additional goal-getter in the shape of Bony. With Coutinho being the oppositions’s prime creative player, Britton’s knack for interceptions and breaking up play will be essential for getting a favorable result. The wide-players Routledge and Hernández will have to move inside to get the shape more compact when Liverpool attack (which they do primarily from the center), and get wider to give the full-backs trouble when Swansea counter-attack.
Probable Line-Up (4-2-3-1): Vorm; Rangel, Williams, Flores, Davies; Britton, Shelvey; Routledge, Michu, Hernández; Bony.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-2-3-1): Mignolet; Wisdom, Sakho, Agger, Enique; Gerrard, Lucas; Henderson, Coutinho, Moses; Sturridge.
Brendan Rodgers will be glad to have Sturridge fit for this fixture, especially Luis Suarez still serving his 10-match suspension and Fabio Borini shipped out on loan to Sunderland. His only other options for the central striker position is Iago Aspas; the Spaniard was not too impressive in the last fixture (the 1-0 win over Manchester United), losing the ball often and being regularly out-muscled. His Central Attacking Midfielder (CAM) position could be given to Philippe Coutinho (his preferred position, as discussed here), while the Left Attacking role could be handed to Chelsea loanee Victor Moses. The only other changes in squad would be in defence: Glen Johnson’s ankle injury means he could be out for easily over a month, so Andre Wisdom should get his spot (Martin Kelly is still getting back into the flow of things after recovering from a lengthy injury spell). The Central Defence partner for Daniel Agger could be anyone out Kolo Toure (who looks set to return from injury), Martin Skrtel (who impressed against Manchester United) and Mamadou Sakho (who seems to be the long term solution for this role). Jose Enrique (at left-back) and Simon Mignolet (in goal) will retain their spots, as will Jordan Henderson, Steven Gerrard and Lucas Leiva (in midfield). Joe Allen should be on the bench against his former side after having recovered from his hamstring problems.
Liverpool FC have to be mentally focused going into the game: they will be facing a side that likes to retain the ball as much as they do, and its essential not to get frustrated in case there are long spells where they don’t have possession. Wisdom could easily be over-run by Hernández and Davies on his flank, so Henderson will have to lend a hand by tracking back whenever possible. If Coutinho is played in the center and Moses out wide (on the left), both will be able to exploit their natural talents (Moses’ pace and Coutinho’s vision) to feed the ball to an in-form Daniel Sturridge.
- Swansea City’s recent home record (in the Premier League) is quite poor, with 0 wins and 4 losses in the last 6 home matches.
- Swansea City have passed the ball 1,461 times in the first three matches, compared to Liverpool’s 1,173 passes. Swansea’s passing accuracy of 86.9% is also higher than that of Liverpool (81.2%).
- Daniel Sturridge has scored 11 goals in his last nine appearances in all competitions for Liverpool.
- The Anfield club have never started a Premier League season with four consecutive wins.
Players To Watch Out For
Wilfried Bony (Swansea)
When the same manager who signed Michu for £2M signs a striker for £12M, one can safely assume that the player must have something special. The Ivory Coast striker was brought in after having made a reputation for himself in the Dutch League: in the end of February 2013 he had completed a streak of 15 goals in 10 Eredivisie matches. Aside from finishing, Bony has a fairly complete game with good strength, speed and skill. If he and Michu can form a strong pairing, they could form the most lethal strike-force outside the top-3 teams in the Premier League.
Swansea 1- 2 Liverpool
Swansea City FC are an excellent side that are hell-bent on reminding the League of their quality; after losing their opening matches against Man United and Tottenham, they convincingly beat West Brom in a match that ended 2-0 in their favor. That being said, Liverpool are a side on a high after topping the table at the end of Gameweek 3, having won 3 out of 3 matches. Both managers will be gunning for a win, but Liverpool (who have no European distractions, unlike Swansea) have a more solid defence and a more prolific striker (Sturridge) to help them edge past the opposition.